Everyone is invited to connect with EastSide Arts Festival, 5th-15th August, this summer. Featuring 100+ artists across more than 80 events taking place both in-person and online, enjoy the festival from the comfort of home, outdoors in person, or at a range of east Belfast locations as part of a socially distanced audience.
Supported by Principal Funder, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, funders Belfast City Council and Belfast Harbour, sponsors Translink, Connswater Shopping Centre and Retail Park, Hewitt & Gilpin and Future Screens NI, the festival is packed full of unique, exciting, events that will allow festival goers to connect with friends and family, performers and facilitators in a safe and accessible way.
The EastSide Arts Festival is brought to you by the team at EastSide Arts, an initiative by EastSide Partnership which is celebrating 25 years of delivering regeneration projects across east Belfast this year. With 80+ events across music, theatre, film, books & spoken word, walks & tours, circus & cabaret, comedy and events for children and families, there will be lots to do this August in east Belfast.
This year the festival has introduced a Digital Festival Pass which provides access to all of the online events, to watch live or On Demand for the duration of the festival.
Here’s a snapshot of some of the many events taking place:
• Anthony Toner new album launch: Celebrating the return of live music, the festival opens with an in-person performance by Anthony Toner. Featuring a tribute to the historic Templemore Baths and written during lockdown, Anthony’s new album Six Inches of Water commissioned by EastSide Partnership includes ten songs inspired by east Belfast. Anthony and his band will also perform a range of songs from his popular back catalogue.
• Mixed Bill Comedy Night: Presenting comedy talent from across Northern Ireland for an evening of laughs at Vault Artist Studios. In preparation for his sold out Ulster Hall shows, Micky Bartlett (Blame Game, Deckchair and Yumz) headlines a show with sets from rising star Robbie McShane (as heard on the General Banter Podcast) and the hilarious Sara Jade Davidson; hosted by Garden Comedy Club creator, Vittorio Angelone.
• Greenway Celebrations: Get down to Victoria Park, part of the Connswater Community Greenway, for a host of activities including sports, outdoor adventure, arts and crafts, street performances, food stalls, music, environmental activities and much more #GreenwayCelebrations.
• West Ocean String Quartet: With world-wide acclaim, their music is literally out of this world, as their first three albums were played aboard the International Space Station and clocked up around 40 million miles. This live special event will be held in the atmospheric surroundings of St. Patrick’s Church and will launch the new album, Atlantic Edge. It also marks the first concert by the Quartet in over 18 months, and their first concert in Belfast in over a decade.
• Billy Boy: Written by Rosemary Jenkinson, directed by Matt Farris, commissioned and produced by EastSide Arts. Belfast actor John Travers shines in this high energy new play by Rosemary Jenkinson, inspired by the real-life stories of young bonfire builders in east Belfast. Think you know this story? Come along to Strand Arts Centre and find out what you’re missing.
• Mary Coughlan Sings Billie Holiday: Four in-person events will take place at the Stormont Hotel, the highlight of which is one of Ireland’s greatest jazz singers, Mary Coughlan, who will celebrate the life and music of Billie Holiday, in the style and period of her time.
• Literary events: A host of well-known names from Northern Ireland and beyond will feature across a wide range of online literature and spoken word events live streamed from Accidental Theatre. Jan Carson, Colin Hassard, Abby Oliviera, Andrea Montgomery, Susan McKay, Andrew Cunning, Sarah Moss, Louise Nealon and writers from Hedgehog Press feature – to name but a few.
• Live at C.S. Lewis Square: For the final weekend of the festival there will be 4 nights of live outdoor music at C.S. Lewis Square; the line-up includes Gareth Dunlop and friends; Celtic Soul celebrating the 50th anniversary of Moondance by Van Morrison (rescheduled from last year); Electronica with The Night Institute DJs and a tribute to Gary Moore on the 10th anniversary of his death. This will be a highlight of the festival with limited capacity.
• Dragtastic Wrap Party: Lady Portia D’Monte and friends will close the 2021 EastSide Arts Festival with glitz, glam and excitement in-person at Vault Artist Studios. Expect sassy banter, sketches, competitions and general mayhem as this ostentatious line-up will take festival-goers through some of their favourite movies and TV shows and get toes tapping.
Liam Hannaway, Chair, The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to support EastSide Arts Festival through The National Lottery and Emergency Funding from the Department for Communities. The theme of the 2021 Festival couldn’t be more apt. ‘Connection’ has been at the heart of the arts this year, as artists and organisations have sought new ways to engage with audiences during lockdown. We are delighted to see EastSide Arts putting on such a strong festival, this year of all years. Lockdown has, if anything, sharpened the public’s appetite for the arts, and I’m confident that this programme will engage audiences and give us a creative lift through these uncertain times.”
Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Kate Nicholl said:“We’re delighted to support the EastSide Arts Festival, one of our Cultural Multi-Annual Grant recipients. Belfast is proud of its thriving festival scene and these events play a vital role in our 10 year cultural strategy, A City Imagining. I’m impressed at how this year’s festival is combining online activity with some in-person events as restrictions start to ease following a challenging period for our local arts sector. The EastSide Arts Festival promises to bring an incredible range of activities to celebrate and showcase local talent and I’d like to take this opportunity to wish the organisers and participating artists the best of luck.”
Director of the EastSide Arts Festival, Rachel Kennedy added:“We are delighted to invite everyone to join us at this year’s EastSide Arts Festival where our theme is connection. Whether you join us live in-person, or online we hope the festival gives you the much-anticipated opportunity to connect with the performers, artists and speakers that inspire you, and with each other as we celebrate the return of live events. This year’s programme is packed with unique, interesting, funny and engaging artists and events. The pandemic continues to present us with challenges, however we have created a safe, accessible festival which can be enjoyed at home or in-person, where everyone’s wellbeing is our main priority. A huge thanks to our Principal Funder, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, for their support, and the vital support of all of the festival funders and sponsors who make the festival what it is.”